How does your connection to nature influence you personally, and how does it influence your art?
There’s something very pure and magical about writing songs while being surrounded by nature. I tend to draw inspiration from many things in life but one that always hits the spot is nature. I’m always filled with wanderlust because not many things can get my creative juices flowing like visiting new places and engulfing myself with peaceful sceneries.
How was your Getaway? Did your time in your cabin influence your process or inspire any new ideas?
My Getaway experience was amazing. I got to experience my first snow in LA and it was the highlight of my pandemic. Although I didn’t get to write any new songs during my stay, my trip to Getaway definitely recharged my creativity batteries. I was able to relax and in a way hit restart from my busy life.
Toni Smalls, one of our Recipients of Rest, a Black, nonbinary, queer activist, photographer, and poet living in Queens, NYC. We hosted Toni at Getaway Eastern Catskills in December. Here is Toni’s thoughtful reflection on their work, their connection to nature, and using their creativity as a form of resistance.
I go to the Fashion Institute of Technology, and I major in photography. Social justice advocacy and seeing black people as the main plot of my storylines in photography is the basis of my artwork.
I have done a lot of work that has helped the black community in many ways. This summer, during the height of the pandemic and the protests of police brutality after the murder of George Floyd, I paired up with Leveler – a platform that allows peer-to-peer financial redistribution and created helpyourblackneighborleveler. This platform allowed 100+ black people to receive reparations and financial support from white allies who were able to redistribute their wealth. This platform was geared specifically to black people who were unable to get their stimulus checks, such as dependents, immigrants, and others who didn’t qualify for whatever reason it may be. If you would like to redistribute funds, reshare the information, or ask for help – the link is in my bio @toni.creations under “black funding.”
I also worked with my partner Drew Ross and a small team of volunteers to create @letstalksocialjustice, a social media page that hosted an online protest and forum – LetstalkNYPD, where black people and allies were able to directly speak to officers, following a healing space. If you would like to take part, helping through social media platforms or launching our next forum, please follow the account and reach out via DM!
My current project as an artist is Under Inner Core, a visual poetry EP. My work is considered “fashion that makes you feel something”; by drawing lines from the poetry I’ve written, I’m able to create a visual and narrative world set designed and captured by me. The work will be creative directed, written, and shot by me. However, I would absolutely love it if I could outsource work to an all-black workforce. I would love to hire a black designer, producer, model, and assistant. In order to pay the people who would make this dream possible, as well as allow them to have tangible work for their resumes, I would need to crowdsource funds. The gofundme link to donating to Under Inner Core is in my bio as well under, “Under Inner Core Fundraiser.” There, you can read more about myself and my work as an artist, as well as make a possible donation.
I was so grateful to spend my time at Getaway house this weekend. The space was clean and simple, it has everything you need – and nothing you don’t. As I write this, I remember thinking, “Where is the microwave to heat up my food?” yet my partner and I deeply bonded boiling soup over the stove. The slowness of things, such as wind blowing the snow off the branches softly, really made me be able to take a breath and appreciate the love I had for my partner, myself, and the nature surrounding us. It was such an important tool to be able to rest and reflect, have a quiet space to talk about life, what worried us, the unknown circumstances – and yet we also giggled over small things, and took lots of naps. Rest is such an important thing, and with everything that has excessively affected the black community, I am extremely grateful to Getaway and Rachel Cargle for this amazing experience.
Mariane Leon, one of our Recipients of Rest, is a body justice advocate and photographer. We hosted Mariane at Getaway Brazos Valley in October. Here is Mariane’s thoughtful reflection on their work, their connection to nature, and what they’ve learned about grief, community, and rest in the last few years.
I wouldn’t call myself an optimist by any stretch of the imagination, but I am a realist with a burst of enthusiasm every once in a while. As a journeyer of self-love and a body justice advocate by way of photography and virtual diaries, it’s teetering on this fine line of positivity and critical thinking that keeps me grounded.
I would love to use 2020 as an excuse, but my complicated relationship to social media, Philly-raised grit, and my unrelenting attempts to love myself are definitely to blame for my personality. In all fairness though, 2020 has been… a year. As I sit back and take yet another moment to reflect, I can’t help but feel the heaviness in my chest as my “mile a minute” thinking slows to a singular place: exhaustion.
In all the pain felt in this year, as a fat, Black femme living in an insufferable world, I often find myself desperate for rest. I don’t just mean 8 hours a night, I mean rest. Rest like boundaries. Rest like doing nothing. Rest like not having to explain myself or argue for my right to exist. Rest like being unbothered. Rest like not being on the 12th Zoom call of the day. Rest like being so disconnected that I can finally connect to myself again.
Needless to say, Getaway was right on time. It didn’t take much convincing when I got the notification that I had been nominated and chosen for a Year of Rest. The idea of being whisked away into peace and quiet was nothing short of ideal. I was in the middle of planning a partial cross country road trip from Philly to Texas and while I had no real idea of where I would be, I was certain of the day I’d Getaway: October 22nd.
For most, that’s just a random day, but for me it’s anything but random. It was a chance to grieve the loss of myself in dark moments. The loss of relationships as I reclaimed space. The loss of stability as COVID tore the outdoors, employment, and physical connection from me. And last, but most certainly not least, it was a chance to grieve the loss I have carried for three years (and counting) of my beautiful mother.
Ah, got ya. You’re reading about loss and you may want to turn away. There’s sadness here, yes, but there is so much more. Grief is such an interesting thing. While some might think – “why would you want to be sad on your Getaway?”, others might understand that there is no better way to process sadness than tucked away amongst the trees.
If I have learned anything over these last three years, it’s that grief sucks, but it’s not our enemy – resistance to it is. Grief is inevitable and we take its gifts for granted sometimes. Grief has given me a wonderful circle of fellow grievers on and offline. It has given me tools to sit within the communal grief of the Black community. Beautiful, vibrant humans who are finding joy, connection, pain, and discomfort throughout their lives, literally laughing through tears and inside jokes that may be considered morbid to those outside of these not-so-exclusive grief clubs.
Grief has given me perspective on all the Hallmark movie things I used to roll my eyes at about time, love, and getting older. Grief has given me so much pain that I can’t help but I feel less afraid of what I can and cannot handle. Grief has also given me an appreciation and understanding of the complexity of emotions. My mom (who I affectionately called “mamadukes”) is who I now, more than ever, longed to have on this earth to hold me through these trying times but I am just as grateful that she doesn’t have to live through even more pain. It’s hard to accept both can be true because grief isn’t a binary of sad and happy or staying put and moving on. Grief is fluid and forever – much to the dismay of those living with it, but there are ways to cope, process, and survive.
At Getaway, I tucked myself into one of the most comfortable and beautiful beds I have ever laid in, shrouded in trees and silence to cope with my grief. I made sure to pack my grief essentials for the night: a Loss deck, a grief tincture, a journal, some meditative candles, and some CBD. While I still wanted nothing more than my mamadukes to pull me to her chest, I was still held warmly by nature itself, easing my mind with the soft hum of its existence.
Being able to have this experience was such a sweet reminder of all the ways we can find peace. The intimacy that comes with rest is deep. It stays with us long after we have moved on and busied ourselves once more, only to return again. The act of letting go, of being still, of turning off the noise to just be is critical. I carry this knowledge with me daily. I share it with my clients who are often looking for rest in their relationships with their bodies as they work to love themselves in a world that banks on their insecurities and self-hatred.
I will be the first to tell you I don’t know much, but occasionally the universe reveals its secrets to me through countless (and often repeated) lessons. Rest gives me the time, energy, and calm needed to return to the truth: I’m a small part of a larger stream of energy and consciousness. My inclination to find rest in nature deepens that truth for me. I always return to the noise of cities and systems, but I can see how giant redwoods connect to my windowsill bamboo plants and the same moon that kisses the furthest parts of the ocean can be seen from car windows on busy highways.
So, while I was sad as I pulled away from my little cabin in the woods, I know I’m infinitely tethered to the time I had there. For that, I am forever grateful and I cannot wait to return again.
There’s nothing better than a filling and delicious breakfast like french toast, especially on slow, weekend mornings. We tapped yoga teacher, and Recipient of Rest, Ashley Limehouse to share her favorite French Toast recipe that she created on her Getaway with us.
8 thick-cut slices of bread (I love sourdough, but you can use brioche if you like a more cake-like texture & sweetness)
1 egg (local if available)
1/2 cup of your favorite milk – I use oat!
2 Tbsp sugar divided
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla
8 ounces mascarpone
2 cups of blackberries
1/2 cup maple syrup (or your favorite)
Whisk together the egg, milk, 1 Tbsp of sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla.
Cut 1/2 cup of blackberries in half, and toss with the remaining sugar – once they begin to release their juices, fold the berries into the mascarpone.
In a small saucepan, heat the maple syrup with the remaining blackberries over medium heat until the berries begin to break down – this takes about 5 minutes.
Heat a skillet over medium heat.
Spread the mascarpone mixture on four slices of bread, and top with the remaining four slices.
Dip each sandwich in the egg/milk mixture.
Add 1 tbsp of butter to the skillet, and when it is melted, cook each sandwich 2-3 minutes per side, until the french toast is golden brown and the egg mixture is cooked through.